September 27, 2013

Satellites main topic at September meeting

Clayton Coleman, W5PFG, spoke to club members during the September; Rusk County Amateur Radio Club’s meeting. Clayton shared his passion for “Working the Birds”, or amateur satellites, and informed members that there are currently five "LEO" (Low Earth Orbit) satellites available to amateurs. Even amateurs with modest equipment and a Technician Class license or above can use them.

Clayton brought some of his equipment, a VHF mobile radio and a couple of hand held antennas as examples of the normal equipment he uses to make contacts with other amateur operators through the satellites.

Clayton said that besides the challenge and satisfaction of making a contact through a satellite, some amateurs enjoy "collecting grid squares." To collect a square, an amateur in one grid square confirms that he or she has contacted another amateur station in a different grid square. Each square is about one square mile and is identified with a unique series of letters and numbers.

Henderson is located in grid square EM22.  Some amateur radio operators will take their satellite stations on the road and work from as many different grid squares as possible to allow other amateurs to add to their grid square count.

Clayton shared an interesting story about a Russian freighter captain who is a ham. He works satellites from his ship while at sea, offering land bound amateurs an opportunity to log a grid square in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or along the coast line of some distant land.

Clayton also shared with the club members some information on the new generation of AMSATS, short for “AMateur SATatelliteS”, which are about the size of a soccer ball. He told of the capabilities that these new “birds” bring to the table of amateur radio in space.